Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club
In 1926, the Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club was established to give a forum both for the writers who were flocking to the Pacific coast and their readers.
In the period after the Second World War, with L.A.’s Jewish population burgeoning, the club drew more than 200 people to its weekly meetings to hear the local stars of Yiddish culture and visiting luminaries read from their work and entertain.
In 1946, the Club’s president, Israel Friedland, wrote on the occasion of the club’s 20th anniversary and the establishment of its new center and described the origin of the club in the first issue of the club’s new literary journal, Kheshbn (Reckoning):
Twenty years ago [in 1926], when a profoundly acrimonious feud had begun dividing the Jewish street between the political orientations of “Left” and “Right,” a small group of nonpartisan people interested in culture, not wanting to be ground between the millstones of the so-called party conflict, decided to establish a Jewish, supra-partisan culture club, where a culturally-involved Jewish person would be able to spend time in a Jewish atmosphere and enjoy himself in a culturally lively way.
At that time, the L.A. Yiddish Culture Club tapped into a number of intellectual forces, which were free of partisan loyalties but had a deep devotion to the Yiddish word and to Yiddish culture and its creators. The culture program of the club gradually crystalized later, taking on its distinct character or essence: not bound to any particular party or order and not under the supervision of any central cultural entity, the Culture Club — for all of these years of its existence — led a uniquely independent cultural venture.
The original Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club, or Jewish Club as it was known in English, was established in 1926 and originally used this Echo Park house, just in front of the Chavez Ravine as its headquarters.
In the 1930s, the Yiddish Culture Club moved its meeting place a bit farther west, to join the other Yiddish cultural organizations headquartered in East Hollywood. When the Hollywood Freeway was constructed between 1947 to 1949, East Hollywood was completely reconfigured. The building that the Culture Club was housed in, among many others, was razed. In 1953, the area began to take on its current appearance with the building of Kaiser Hospital along Sunset.
In 1946, with the imminent demolition of its previous home, the Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club proudly moved into its own building at 4213 Monroe in East Hollywood. The Culture Club celebrated what it hoped would be its permanent home with the launching of a first-rate literary journal, "Kheshbn," that same year. This picture of the new building graced the inside cover of the very first issue.
In 1973, the Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club put its building up for sale and moved into the building of the Labor Zionist Institute of Jewish Education and folk-school at 8339 West Third Street in Beverly Grove. It continued to hold regular meetings, finally under the leadership of Lilke Majzner who led the Club from 1991 until her death in 2009. Today the building houses the Victory Presbyterian Church, offering services in Spanish and Korean.
Lilke Majzner was born Lilke Nutkevitz in Łódź, Poland to a Bundist family. During WWII, she worked for the Jewish resistance until she was deported. She was in six concentration camps and barely survived Auschwitz, before arriving in L.A. in 1955. She became the final president of the Culture Club in 1991. Here she is in the Culture Club library on Third Street with Yiddishkayt's founder Aaron Paley in 2002.